Friday, 4 July 2008

Review: House of Wax

I actually saw HoW quite a while back, but I'm still catching up with the reviews I failed to write at the time. For whatever reason I needed to release some bile tonight, so the possibility of doing this felt perfect:

I'm generally pretty picky with the films I watch. Not because I'm a snob, thank you very much, but because there are enough high quality things to watch that I get annoyed if I feel like I've wasted a couple of hours on something that wasn't worth it. Hence, I generally pre-screen a lot of my viewing with recommendations from friends etc (as far as I can, given my deathly fear of spoilers).

Sometimes, however, I have no input in the choice of film, and so I have to hope that those that do choose choose wisely. In the times when this process reaps rewards, I get to see things like Fight Club, Equilibrium and the Matrix for the first time. In the times when it does not, I get to see Stealth, Legally Blonde 2 or, on this occasion, House of Wax.

To say that House of Wax has no redeeming features is perhaps unfair. It is at least coherent, it proceeds from scene to scene in something resembling a storyline, and even if the entire process reeks of cookie-cutter slasher-movie, it deals relatively well with whatever originality it can find in a rehashed story.

The script and acting are not just forgettable, but also for the most part awful. The only character who inspires any positive reaction from the audience is Elisha Cuthbert's, and even then, the character never extends beyond the well-trodden damsel-in-distress role. It's not even as if the other characters are unlikeable; unlikeable I can deal with; unlikable can be a winning characteristic. These characters are just cardboard cutouts. They are actors reciting exposition and nothing more. They never feel like a group of friends, there is no chemistry, there is nothing. There is a scene in which Paris Hilton strips, which feels awkward and uneccessary, and in that sense, fits in perfectly with the whole style of the rest of the film.

The film feels like it was filmed on a camcorder, but rather than adding a sense of claustrophobia, it just feels amateurish. The special effects are well done, on the whole, but that's just standard fare nowadays. There's an attempt to have a darker theme running under the movie, with the antagonists backgrounds being explored, but it never feels like anything more than a cover story for a slasher flick.

In order to be watchable, this film would need a script that gave its characters some substance and the actors to pull it off. Without them, it's just an empty, eggshell-thin covering over a void where it's soul should be, devoid of meaning or point. It has no reason for existing, and has nothing to offer. It is a no-trick pony, getting by on things that have been done a million times before, and better. If this film were a person, it might even be Paris Hilton, which would be really rather depressingly appropriate.


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